Coalition of Concerned Citizens has called this press conference today October 18, 2017
out of urgent concern regarding Emera’s bid to buy-out minority Bahamian
shareholders of ICD Utilities. ICD Utilities owns 50 % of Grand Bahama
Power Company with an overall Bahamian equity interest of 19.63 %. Emera
is seeking to secure 100% ownership of Grand Bahama Power Company a
vital utility infrastructure on the Island of Grand Bahama.
The Coalition of Concerned Citizens strongly opposes Emera’s proposed buy-out of Bahamian shareholders. Our opposition is based on the following;
Any company such as a Power Company within the jurisdiction of the Bahamas should maintain a significant percentage of Bahamian Ownership. A good example of this is the ownership of the Bahamas Telecommunication Company (BTC). The present ownership percentage is Cable & Wireless Communication (CWC) 49% Bahamas Government 49% and BTC Foundation 2%.
A vital infrastructure such as a Power Plant along with Generation, Transmission & Distribution should not be owned 100 % by a foreign company. This create concerns with energy security and our country’s sovereignty as it relates to the energy sector.
Emera\GBPC’s business model, policies and mode of operation have decimated the economy of Grand Bahama. High electricity based rates have resulted in the closures of businesses, hotels, unemployment, and hundreds of people living without electricity. It is important to note that high electricity rates have contributed to a higher cost of living.
Prior to Emera\GBPC’s rate application that was approved by the Grand Bahama Port Authority in January 2016, Grand Bahama Island was already paying the highest base rate on electricity in the Bahamas. Despite this fact, Emera\GBPC applied to increase rates during a time when the global oil price was plummeting. The approval received led to increased electricity base rates, and greater hardships on business & residential customers.
High electricity rates have been a major barrier to potential investors for Grand Bahama. One of the primary concerns of investors when considering investing in a territory is the cost of electricity. Emera\GBPC has been unable to provide low affordable power to their customers. Hereby becoming a major roadblock to both local & foreign investors.
During the period of 2014 -2016 there was a major reduction in global oil prices due to plummeting oil markets. Emera\GBPC failed to pass on significant savings to their customers in fuel surcharges.
The present generation capacity of Emera\GBPC cannot effectively supply electricity at peak load demand. Therefore, there is a great need for another power company on the island that can provide affordable reliable electricity to the customers.
Emera\GBPC is a monopoly providing electricity to customers throughout Grand Bahama. Monopolies have a greater responsibility to deliver customer satisfaction. On the other hand, because there is no competition, Emera\GBPC has failed to meet this standard.
The Government of the Bahamas and the Grand Bahama Port Authority signed a Memorandum of Understanding in May 2016. In the MOU section 1.18 GBPA agreed to ‘collaborate with the Government in establishment of a mechanism and function to ensure the exercise of the regulatory powers and functions vested in the GBPA are consistent with the national policy, regulations and laws of the Bahamas, including, if possible, through the utilization the existing independent regulators.’ Despite the Grand Bahama Port Authority’s overwhelming commitment to work with our Government’s regulatory goals, Emera\GBPC began legal action in the Supreme Court to prevent the Utilities Regulation Competition Authority (URCA) from regulating or seeking to exercise licensing and regulatory authority over it. This type of action disrespects our people, our government, our laws and the government agency created to regulate the energy sector. URCA presently regulate Bahamas Power & Light (BPL), BTC, ALIV, Cable Bahamas and all Television and Radio Stations in the Bahamas. It should raise concerns that Grand Bahama Power Company is resisting the policy to be regulated by URCA.
This morning we have sent a letter to the Prime Minister petitioning the Government to not approve Emera’s acquisition of Bahamian owned shares. It is our opinion that Emera’s expansion goals are not in the best interest of the people and businesses of Grand Bahama.
The CCC also urges the Bahamian shareholders of ICD Utilities to please reconsider selling your shares to Emera. We know that are financial challenges in the Bahamas, but we appeal to the minority shareholder to stand on principle. The principle of not selling out our Country’s sovereignty in the energy sector by allow a vital infrastructure like the Grand Bahama Power Company to become 100% owned by a foreign company.
Pastor Victor states ‘If Emera wants to buy the shares of the Bahamian shareholders, those shares are more valuable than what you think. We appeal to those Bahamian shareholders to reconsider the selling of your shares to Emera and do not sell, stand your ground, let Grand Bahama Power Company continue to have Bahamian interest and never be allowed to become 100% owned by a foreign company.’